Otter senior tops boys’ basketball all-star team

ADDISON COUNTY — This past winter treated most area high school boys’ basketball teams well, with three winning at least 14 games and earning first-round home playoff games.
Otter Valley had the most postseason success, winning two Division II playoff games and finishing 16-7. Coach Greg Hughes’ Otters benefitted from the presence of senior forward John Winslow, who headlines the 2015 Addison Independent Boys’ All-Star Team by earning Independent Player of the Year honors for the second straight time. One of Winslow’s senior teammates joins him as an Independent all-star.
The distinction of the area’s best team goes to Coach Chris Altemose’s Middlebury Tigers, however. The 16-5 Tigers went undefeated in the Lake Division and swept all five games vs. the other local teams, and only one contest was close, at Vergennes. Each of the MUHS starting five earned berths on either the Independent first or second teams.
Coach Peter Quinn’s VUHS group won 14 times, including a home playoff game, before losing a quarterfinal heartbreaker at OV. Two Commodore seniors and a sophomore earned Independent recognition.
Although it was not a great winter for Coach Mike Estey’s Mount Abraham team, younger players at several levels showed promise and hope for the program’s future.
Selections for the Independent team were made based on statistics, observation and consultation with the coaches. Congratulations to the following:
JOHN WINSLOW, OV SENIOR, PLAYER OF THE YEAR. Notes: Led all local players in scoring, 18.7 points per game, and rebounding, 13.35 per contest … Versatile player who nailed three-point shots and crashed the offensive glass … Scored his 1,000th point this winter and finished his career with 1,135 after a 24-point night in Barre … Good ballhandler who could run the offense … Scored 15 points to lead the South in the D-I/II boys’ all-star game … Tough defender on the ball and smart helping on defense … Helped OV reach a D-II semifinal for only the third time in program history.
Hughes’ Quotes: “John Winslow does it all … John is not only an important part of our team statistically, he is the foundation of our team … He is our go-to guy as well as our on-the-floor general … His leadership and dedication is at such a high level that is very rare … John and his classmates were able to turn the Otter Valley program around and give it a bright future that young athletes look up to.”
OAKLEY GORDON, MUHS JUNIOR. Notes: Second among local players with 15.9 points per game and chipped in with 2.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.1 steals per contest … Can hit from behind the arc, sink mid-range or pull-up jumpers, or finish inside … Sank 75.3 percent of his free throws … Effective in transition or in halfcourt sets … Solid, hard-working defender.
Altemose’s Quotes: “His role was to score the ball … He did have some defensive presence, too, for us… He played hard. He was definitely one of our more emotional players, a fiery guy … He was exciting to watch play, especially when his shot was falling … He had that potential to change a game, either to get us going or spark us when we were down … I think he had a great season.”
AUSTIN ROBINSON, MUHS SENIOR. Notes: Physical, determined presence in the lane who made the most of his return to basketball after two years off by averaging a double-double: 10.2 points and 10.0 rebounds (usually against taller players), while adding 1.5 steals per game … Showed an uncanny knack for coming up with contested rebounds and loose balls, and a decent touch around the basket … Brought toughness and defense every game.
Altemose’s Quotes: “It’s the way he played, his hustle, how hard he played … He played hard every night. He had positive energy every day. He just scrapped out there … What we needed was that hustle, intensity and physicality around the basket. He played hard all the time and always kept his head up.”
WESLEY MIEDEMA, VUHS SENIOR. Notes: Game-changing defensive presence who at six-foot-nine blocked 5.4 shots per game … Came on strong defensively down the stretch, averaging 8.0 blocks in his final seven games, reaching double digits three times, including 13 vs. OV in the D-II quarterfinal … Also changed more shots than he blocked … Efficient offensive player who hit 47 percent of his shots while averaging 7.0 points, 5.9 rebounds and just 0.6 turnovers.
Quinn’s Quotes: “His shooting percentage was way up from a year ago … He’s our most efficient guy … If he’s blocking eight shots a game, how many is he altering? … In high school, teams average 40 shots a game. He’s taking away 12 of those … Most of his blocks came on help D … He so influences the game … He was a vocal guy during this year, which was a mark of his maturity this year … He’s such a positive guy, too, with his teammates.”
BOBBY RITTER, MUHS SENIOR. Notes: Skilled, quick two-way player who added more scoring to his toolbox this winter … Averaged 9.2 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 2.7 assists and just 2.0 turnovers while running the point for MUHS … Keyed the Tiger running game with speed and decision-making … Solid defender on and off the ball … Scored eight in the third quarter at VUHS on Feb. 19 to help Tigers rally for the win. 
Altemose’s Quotes: “If you can play point guard and have only two turnovers per game that’s pretty good … He handles the ball a lot and he looks to score, which progressed throughout his career … He developed into a nice well-rounded point guard, and he’s a good leader, with a nice work ethic … He has a really good mentality for a point guard … It was fun to coach him and fun to see his development.”
LIAM HAYES, VUHS SENIOR. Notes: Fast, talented point guard who despite a nagging injury averaged 8.0 points, 2.1 steals, 3.6 rebounds and a local high of 4.0 assists while turning the ball over just twice a game … Shot 53 percent from two-point range and 33 percent from behind the arc … Had big nights in tight wins vs. South Burlington and Missisquoi.
Quinn’s Quotes: “He was one of our better rebounders … He was a team leader. He was the one everybody looked to on the court … He had great court vision … He was able to step up in some big games for us, for sure … Defensively he plays a free safety style … He was really good off-ball anticipating and seeing plays other people don’t see.”
ADAM GILL, VUHS SOPHOMORE. Notes: Winner of the county Sixth Man Award … Fearless player who came off the bench to lead VUHS in scoring with 11.0 points per game … Displayed shooting range and finished inside … Chipped in 1.8 assists, 1.5 steals and 2.5 rebounds per game … Shot a local high of 81 percent from the line.
Quinn’s Quotes: “He brings passion to the game and commitment to working to get better … He had a nose for the basket … He’s a good teammate and brings a focus to the game … He doesn’t get bothered. If he misses a shot he just moves on … He anticipates pretty well on defense …  As a sophomore coming in he was a great contributor for us.”
BRYCE BURRELL, MUHS SENIOR. Notes: Did everything well for the Tigers, scoring, rebounding and defending bigger players in the post … Averaged 10.3 points, second on the team, and chipped in 4.4 rebounds and 1.1 steals … Led the team with 18 points in the playoff setback … Effective with either hand inside, and could score from the perimeter.
Altemose’s Quotes: “He was our most efficient offensive player … He has nice touch around the basket. He could hit mid-range shots pretty well … He was a threat in both of those spots … He helped out on the boards … He often guarded people a lot bigger than him… He played hard every day and is a good teammate.”
CONNOR GALLIPO, OV SENIOR. Notes: Swingman who contributed across the board with averages of 6.55 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists … Solid defender and shooter with three-point range who represented the South in the three-point shooting contest in Windsor this past weekend … Hustling team leader and two-time captain. 
Hughes’ Quotes: “He always brings a high energy and great attitude to practice. He finished first in almost every sprint we did … The most important thing he did for our team this year is bring a sense of fun, always having a smile on his face and keeping the morale up … He was one of our best defenders and did a lot of the little things to get our team to Barre.” 
CONNOR QUINN, MUHS SENIOR. Notes: Tough defender and rebounder who was willing to sacrifice his offense … Was always assigned opponents’ top guard or forward to cover … Defended well in the open floor and in the post … Capable of scoring and showed three-point range … Averaged 4.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.2 steals, and second on the team with 2.2 assists per game.
Altemose’s Quotes: “He made some big shots, passed the ball real well, and played great defense … He guarded the other team’s best player every night … He was just a solid player for us, kind of our glue guy out there … He’s a good leader … The numbers don’t tell the story.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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